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Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Somali freed in Dutch terror probe

Dutch authorities on Thursday freed the last of 12 Somalis arrested in Rotterdam last Friday, though he and two others remain suspects in a possible Christmas terror attack, prosecutors said.

The 29-year-old, who has Dutch residence papers, was freed on instruction of the national prosecutor's office, they said in a statement.

"The man is still a suspect, as are two others aged 44 and 47" who were freed on Tuesday with three others no longer suspected in the case, the statement noted.

The 12 were arrested in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam late Friday following a tip-off from Dutch intelligence that a group of Somalis were planning to carry out a terrorist attack in the Netherlands on December 24 or 25.

On Sunday and Monday, six of them were either freed or handed over to immigration police as they were no longer considered suspects.

Investigations so far have yielded no weapons or explosives and no information about a possible target, the prosecution office said.

Spokesman Wim de Bruin said the three remaining suspects were free to leave the country.

"There are no restrictions on them," he said.

Source: AFP

Somali pirates seize Taiwanese fishing vessel

Somali pirates appear to have seized a Taiwanese-owned fishing vessel, the FV Shiuh Fu No 1, near the north east tip of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, the European Naval force said on Thursday.
The EU force said on its website the vessel was operating near the island when it was reported that it was being chased by a skiff on December 25 and communications were lost, and it was very likely the vessel had been seized.

The vessel has a crew of 26 consisting of Taiwanese, Chinese and Vietnamese nationals.

Pirates are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing merchant ships in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, despite efforts by foreign navies to clamp down on such attacks.

The hijackings have driven up insurance premiums and forced ships to take longer, costlier routes to avoid piracy hot spots.

Source: Reuters

Somaliland jails Russians over weapons for Puntland

Six Russians have been jailed in the northern Somali breakaway territory of Somaliland.

Their aircraft was seized earlier this month carrying military equipment bound for the neighbouring semi-autonomous state of Puntland.

A court sentenced them to a year in jail and fined them for supplying military equipment to an enemy.

The charterer of the plane, Saracens International, denied that the cargo was illegal.

The Russians were also convicted of violating Somaliland's airspace and fined $500 (£320). The uniforms and mines which were found on board the aircraft were confiscated by the court in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa.

Reports say the Russians were told that if they paid a larger fine they would serve a shorter sentence.

Some South African journalists on the plane, which had landed without permission in Hargeisa to refuel, were released earlier.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says that this is a very murky case and that many elements of it are unclear.

Disputed territory

After the Russians were arrested the interior minister of Somaliland, Mohamed Abdi Gaboosi, said the cargo was in violation of the United Nations arms embargo on Somalia.

Saracens - a private military contractor, which is based in Uganda and South Africa - told the BBC at the time that the cargo was destined for its operation in Puntland, where it is training an anti-piracy force.

Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in the early 1990s, but is not internationally recognised. It is relatively stable, unlike the rest of Somalia, and even organises regular elections.

However, it has a border dispute with Puntland and the two security forces occasionally clash.

Unlike Somaliland, Puntland says it does not seek recognition as an independent entity, wishing instead to be part of a federal Somalia.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991.

Source: BBC News

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mogadishu in Tears

By Buri M. Hamza

As we continue to honour the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence and national unity, our Capital City is literally in tears.

Mogadishu, also known as Xamar - the quintessence of Somalia’s independence and national unity - is indeed in tears. Abandoned by the very people it has nurtured, sheltered, educated, and protected, it cannot help but cry. And as the deluge of tears continues to inundate the cheeks of this crying city, its old sons and daughters, who are lurking about elsewhere, continue with their indifference and obliviousness. Only a few have opted to return, and many others are either just too scared to run the risk or perhaps not yet ready to sacrifice their lives for a city they owe a lot to.

The recent return of some ex-Mogadisciani – for many after more than 25 years – to take up ministerial posts in the new cabinet of the Transitional Federal Government should have pleased the crying city. Irrespective of whether they can rise to the country’s pressing challenges and deliver on their promises, the fact that they have opted to take risks and defy the menaces – similar to what their predecessors from the diaspora had previously done – will certainly be tantamount to another bold move. The question now is whether others in the diaspora would follow suit.

Mogadishu, once known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is now more than twenty years into a crisis that is not of its own making. This prolonged crisis has had a way of altering its landscapes. What was once a beautiful, peaceful and inviting city, the consequential result of its devastation is indeed heartbreaking. Some of the obvious changes are: buildings and other vital infrastructures blown apart, roads ripped up, the ancient sites in a shambles, and a striking change in its demographic structure. The old parliament, where fifty years ago the first President of an independent and united Somalia was sworn in, is now hardly identifiable.

But Mogadishu, the destruction it has sustained notwithstanding, continues to assert in a dominant fashion the Somali nation’s sovereignty. It has been bestowed with a unique historical responsibility to lead the country. This is the city that had given birth to an independent and united Somalia. And as we continue to honour the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence and national unity, we salute you Mogadishu. For better or worse you are our national inspiration. You possess all the qualities that give you matchless national political and economic leverages. You are envied for the degree of national pre-eminence that you possess.

And what astounds me most as I keep on looking at our crying city is: its resilience. When it is listened to, it can, at least for some brief moments, remind you of its glittering charm and elegance, its love and past smile, its unscathed and clean air – when deeply inhaled turns into a reminiscence of the good old days: those beautiful days when Mogadisciani would take the old-aged swing at the city centre, or drive through the streets of Mogadishu without any fear of anything, without any fear of the insane insurgents who are now amputating or chopping off people’s arms and legs, just to cite some of the heinous crimes perpetrated against innocent people.

And paradoxically, and albeit the insecurity that still prevails in certain quarters of the city, Mogadishu witnesses an unbridled growth of the private sector: thriving but unregulated telecommunication firms; hawaala banks, which facilitate the transfer of the remittances from the diaspora to the needy in different parts of Somalia; and other businesses that are also perceived as being a bit insensitive to the externalities that are generated as a result of their unregulated activities. And while these businesses enjoy an uncontrolled access to resources, it is yet to be established whether they are bound by and committed to the principles of corporate social responsibility.

Mogadishu hosts a plethora of non-governmental actors. Rising above all adversities, they have shown to be a symbol of perseverance. They have been able to fill the void engendered by the absence of effective government institutions. They have built schools, hospitals and independent radio and TV stations. But a disconnect discerned between governmental actors and non-governmental actors, on the one hand, and within the non-governmental actors themselves, has precluded the development of potential partnership models essential for delivering key issues confronting institutions in the country.

Mogadishu, the wishful thinking of those who want to divide the nation notwithstanding, will remain the sole guarantor of Somalia’s national unity. Nobody expects sweeping and immediate changes in the city anytime soon – even the most straw-clutching of optimists. But the Capital City of our beloved nation will eventually witness a return to normality. It will usher in a renewed peace and stability. It will shine again, restore its elegance, and resume its leadership as the nation’s only and only Capital City.

In conclusion, I hope my fellow Mogadisciani in the diaspora would not shrug off my plea. While I trust they are fully aware of the grim repercussions of their indifference, yet the need for understanding the underlying root causes that have led to their indifference is very dire. The quintessential Mogadisciani now in the diaspora were forced to abandon their city – they had succumbed to all forms of tortures, injustices human rights violations, and expropriation of their assets. The perpetrators of such despicable acts are after all our own compatriots. They ought to be forgiven. But they must first confess that they had committed crimes against their innocent brothers and sisters and ask to be pardoned.

By Buri M. Hamza
Mogadishu, Somalia


OP-ED:A Brief History of the ‘Somali’ Union: What is the Way Forward?

By Mo Guled

A Brief History of the ‘Somali’ Union: What is the Way Forward?*

The former Republic of Somalia has been haunted by a problem called ‘Greater-Somalism’. Greater-Somalism is a politically motivated drive to unite all Somalis and Somali territories under a one-nation-state. It started in the 1940s as a movement to counter colonial powers and gained much popularity in 1960s. It looked attractive, because, in addition to the cultural nationalism, it also had religious and moralistic sentiments, that all muslims are brothers and sisters and therefore should unite; even more so when they share a common language, creed and culture. It was based on the view that Somalis have everything it takes to form a one-nation-state, and its credo quite simple: to bring all Somalis under one nation and one flag by consent, and if necessary by coercion. It was well captured by Dr. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in his statement:

Our misfortune is that our neighbouring countries, with whom, like the rest of Africa, we seek to promote constructive and harmonious relations, are not our neighbours. Our neighbours are our Somali kinsmen whose citizenship has been falsified by indiscriminate boundary ‘arrangements’ (quoted in Lewis, 1963:151) .

Dr. Sharmarke, the very person who verbalised in the best possible way Somalis yearning for unity was unfortunately assassinated in 1969. Nonetheless, his legacy in respect of Greater-Somalism lived on though it never had the same connotations nor a driving force of his status and his eloquence. It is still active today and despite the unilateral dissolution of the Union by the Republic of Somaliland in 1991, it has still many proponents. One of the main arguments for Greater-Somalism by those who still campaign for re-establishing the Somali Union in post-Dr. Sharmarke era is to disappoint Ethiopia, a country which they think has always sought to prevent Somalia from having an effective and strong national government. Somalis, they argue, cannot afford to be divided because of the eminent military threat, which Ethiopia poses to their existence. Based on moralistic sentiments they further argue that, in the vicinity of Christian Ethiopia, Somalis need to do everything to have a strong unified Somalia.

The central concern of this article is that the Union of Somalia was founded on the false dream of Greater-Somalism based on language, race, culture and religion criteria. It argues that the Somali Union simply existed, not because of intrinsic values of its nationhood, but because of its ‘Cold War Client’ status. The article raises serious questions about whether there was a nation-state in Somalia in the first place, and considers how the unswerving search for Greater-Somalism masked Somalia’s vulnerability as a nation-state.

The Fragility of the Somali Nation-State

Ever since the formation of the Union in 1960, the former Republic of Somalia was an archetypal ‘Cold War Client State’ receiving aid from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and after Somali broke ties with the Soviet Union in 1977 from the US in the 1980s (Gundel, 2002) . According to Weil (1993) with a per capita income of $80, Somalia in 1970 was the sixth poorest country in the world. That figure has risen to $150 in 1976. With the war against Ethiopia a year later, things got even worse, the country fell on flat face and in 1990 the per capita income was estimated at $120. In an elaborated paper Menkhaus (1997) outlines how the whole edifice of the Somali national government infrastructure was a bloated cartoon polity swelled and over-aided out of proportion by readily available ‘Cold War Funds’. He argues that after Israel, Somalia received the highest international military and economic aid per capita. Clearly, Somalia was not unique in receiving foreign aid. The uniqueness in Somalia’s case is that apart from the military power which made the Somali Military Government and its predecessor Civilian Government to build one of the strongest armies in sub-Saharan Africa, the rest of the international aid disappeared into bottomless perils in Mogadishu with no signs of improvement in the hinterland, a situation which earned the country the label of ‘the graveyard of foreign aid’.

It is only because of the prevailing world political system that the Union of Somalia lasted for 31 years. Ordinary citizens and even those in power wrongly believed in Somalia’s strength lied in its military capability and its homogeneity, which both proved to be two false premies. The situation changed in latter part of the mid-70s when armed to the teeth with Cold War weapons and filled with Greater-Somalism sentiments, Siyad Barre’s Military Government invaded Ethiopia under the pretext to liberate Western Somali territories. Chanting Kani galbay ku kale mooyee (Somali for ‘this war is over, which one is next’), the Somali army captured town after town. Siyad Barre’s backers, particularly the Soviet Union, disagreed with his irresponsible war expedition, a situation which led for Somalia to break ties with the Soviet Union in 1977 and with that the military aid stopped. Within a few months it proved that Somalia’s military government could not sustain the war, telling its army, as Jon Snow jokingly but tellingly put it, that ‘the country run out of fuel’ and Somalia’s military might was left stranded in the heartland of Ethiopia.

Humiliated, some of the defeated army Generals returned to Somalia to take revenge on their commander-in-chiefs, Somalia’s tried and tested (and often failing) version of ‘Public Inquiry’. Bringing the war back into Somalia, they attempted to overthrow the irresponsible government, which sent them to an un-winnable war, and when they failed to topple the government returned to Ethiopia for a better preparation, forming in 1978 the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). This was followed by the Somali National Movement (SNM) in 1981. Somalia regained its ‘Cold War Client State’ status when the US stepped in 1980. Still mistakenly believing in its military capability, the government replied in kind to the war brought by the incoming army Generals, killing its own people.

However, the opposition meant business this time. SNM fighters calling ‘Faqash way tagaysaaye sii tukhaantukhiyaay’ (Somali for ‘The Somali army is defeated, all it needs is tipping over’) intensified their war against Siyad Barre’s army. The United Somali Congress (USC) , formed in 1989, answered these calls emanating from the then North (now Somaliland). It did the tipping over which also coincided with the end of the Cold War era, exposing Somalia’s fragile state structure. As the final phase of the war intensified and brought to the doorstep of Siyad Barre’s government, a group called the Manifesto visited USC’s leader, General Aidid, begged him to halt the war to which the General reportedly replied ‘it is too late to halt a war which started in Zeila now the frontline has reached Avizioni (in Mogadishu)’ forcing Siyad Barre to flee the town in the most undignified way ‘in the last functional tank’ as Peter Pham put it .

When the first false premise on which Somalia’s national government was based, i.e. foreign aid dried up in the early 90s, the Somali state structure simply imploded, the country descended into Hobbesian war of all against all and like an attention seeking child Somalia turned its deadly weapon against itself. For a long time Somalis were the sole victims of their imploded nation-state. But the result of this long post-Cold War negligence is that Somalis have not only made their country dangerous for themselves to live in; they turned the strategic location of their country into a strategic problem to the international commercial maritime transport. Now the international community has to once again come to rescue Somalia, this time, from itself: women and children seek protection behind AMISOM troops from their own fellow Somalis; the Transitional Federal Government for its troops and police force from their fellow Somalis; and Somali business community for its sea cargos from its own pirate boys. If the language, race or religion argument makes any sense it would have explained how this war of all against all in most of Somalia continues unabated.

The December 2010 Djibouti Conference of Somali Scholars

Djibouti was the first Somali territory to opt out of the Union. It had closely studied the unfolding saga of the Union in mid 1970s and took what every reasonable Somali thought was a political miscalculation. But Djiboutians preferred to take a leap into the unknown than to join a wobbly Union. It paid off. Against all expectations Djibouti thrived. It is now well-placed to come to the rescue of their fellow Somalis who loved each other to death. Djibouti has in December 2010 hosted a conference of Somali academics. Proudly standing in front of about 60 the participating Somali scholars, President Ismail O. Guelleh instructed them to brainstorm about Somalia’s problem and come up with a workable solution. Ironically, like no other leader, President Guelleh knows well that Somalia and Somaliland would have been better off had they gone separate ways. He also knows well that restoring the Somali Union is a foregone conclusion. The founding fathers of the Republic Djibouti had predicted that accurately. It would not be surprising if someone claimed that the President was humming ‘wax la waayay Waydow ninkii waalan baa u duda’ (Somali for ‘only the insane looks for the impossible’) as he was tasking the scholars with the impossible work of finding a solution to the ‘Somali’ complex problem. Impossible insofar as the solution is Union-based. Unfortunately, they shied away from thoroughly debating or even considering a two-nation-state solution to the Somali drama. That might have been more productive. Instead, there was more of the same deja-vu scholarly debate that had no practical relevance for resolving the perennial ‘Somali’ problem. Understandably, settling the Union drama by dissolving the unity is painful, but as appears from Somalia’s turbulent history, there is a pressing need for those genuinely concerned about the plight of the ‘Somali’ people and the stability of the Horn of Africa to consider the hitherto neglected and painful option of the two-nation-state solution.

The Pandora Box Argument Against Dissolving the ‘Somali’ Union

It remains unclear as to why the scholars avoided to discuss a-no-Union-approach which the very country that is hosting them has adopted. However, the majority of those who indulge in Greater-Somalism oppose the Republic of Somaliland’s statehood argue that dissolving the Union will open a Pandora Box, i.e. that Somalia will disintegrate into smaller clan-based entities. But they fail to see why this fashionable Pandora Box argument they invoke had failed to materialise when Djibouti decided to stay away from joining the Union in 1977, the year Somalia’s military government sent its troops on a costly expedition trip into Ethiopia. Similarly, they fail to see why Ethiopia failed to disintegrate into smaller entities when in 1993 Eritrea ceased to be part of Ethiopia. On the contrary, the one territory that would have followed suit, the Somali inhabited region, integrated further in the Ethiopian federal system by removing from their flag the five pointed start against a blue background (Somali identity) which symbolised their aspiration to join the rest of Somalia and replacing it with a she-camel (their regional identity) against a yellow background (Ethiopian identity). Further, no one is holding hostage the aspirations of the South Sudanese people by invoking that the rest of Sudan will fall apart if they [the South Sudanese] opt for separate statehood. It is, therefore, unclear as to how and why dissolving the Somalia-Somaliland union would this time around lead to further breakdown of the region.

New Directions

The victorious USC without consulting their partners in the war installed a transitional government supposedly meant to run the Union. That was the defining moment for Somaliland’s history. Ordinary people in Somaliland became suspicious about how serious their partners in the Union were about the Union. More importantly, people in Somaliland realised that Somalis were not and still are not psychologically and institutionally ready for a centralised government and that a Union is something that they could ill-afford. Traditional leaders from Somaliland took the matter into their hands from the SNM generals in 1991 and decided that the restoration of colonial borders, and not the restoration of the Somali unity, was the way forward.

The dependency on foreign aid continues to-date with all the fifteen plus peace conferences Somalis have seen since the collapse of the central government in 1991 were all funded by donor nations. The argument that the frantic search for reestablishing the central government in Somalia is, according to this view, simply because there is the illusion of foreign aid bonanza of the Cold War magnitude will resume once more (Menkhaus, 1997). But many observers begin to understand now that the Somali homogeneity, if not a problem in itself, failed as a unifying force. The Somali irredentist idea was too ambitious while the norms and values of modern state were still alien to the Somalis who are unable to curb in their ‘Somaliness’ sentiments. Somalis are not psychologically prepared to be united for the sake of it. Nor are they willing. The blind search for a one-nation-state for Somali speaking people in the Horn will surely only prolong their suffering.

No wonder that now the stand of some of the international community is shifting towards the realisation that the likelihood of re-establishing a sustainable unified central government in Somalia is next to impossible. To many who are genuinely concerned about the plight of the people in the Somali peninsula it has become clear that the problem of the loss of the Union is secondary to the problem of whether a nation-state can indeed be built on the much invoked linguistic, creed and culture and religion criteria. If that were the case we would have seen a one Arab nation-state. It has not happened in the Arabia peninsula, neither can one expect it to happen i the Somali peninsula. For, t5here are many people who fit the criteria, but are perfectly happy with having other nationalities than Somali. Uniting all Somalis under a one nation-state, an idea that is still current in the former South (now Somalia) is and has been ‘a political stalking’ which Somalis need to review. It does not hold. For, if Dr. Abdirashid A. Sharmarke had been troubled by Somalis whose nationality were falsified about 50 years after his eloquent statement on Greater-Somaliasm, his own son, Mr. Omar Sharmarke, proud of his dual identity and nationality as a Somali-Canadian, was in 2009 appointed as TFG’s Prime Minister. Mr. Omar Sharmarke is part of a new generation whose identity and nationality is hyphenated and whose acquisition of foreign nationalities is brought about by the very ideal which Dr. Abdirashid A. Sharmarke stood for: Greater-Somalism. Greater-Somalism led to civil war, to refugee crises sending Somalis around the globe and finally to the dissolution of the Union. The important lesson one can draw from this development is that ethnicity and national identity are separate factors which are not sufficient nor absolutely necessary for the building of a nation-state.

Now, contrary to the popular view that the South dominated the North, or that the pre-1991 Mogadishu-based semi-literate government systematically oppressed people from the North, which to some extent is of course true, the former Somali Republic’s problem is the unthought through plans to unite all Somalis, whilst this lineage-based people have never known any form of a central authority. The union came generations too early and as the situation currently stands a two-state solution is the best way forward.

Mohamed Obsiye
BSc (Tropical Agriculture), MSc (Human Geography of Developing Countries), MA (Social Work), PhD Candidate.

*This article is part of an ongoing work the author is doing on the process of political thought formation and nation-state building in Somalia and Somaliland.

Source; The Somaliland Press

Private firm trains Somalis to scuttle pirates

Somalia's transitional government is using private security firms and Arab governments to train and fund a paramilitary force to battle pirates in the region that have threatened international shipping.

A lawyer representing Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) said on Tuesday that a security contractor, Saracen International, is being paid by a Muslim government to train an anti-piracy force in Bosaso, a town in the northern Somali province of Puntland on the horn of Africa. The TFG is also looking into training another, similar force in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital.

"The goal of the TFG and the donor is to strengthen the mechanism in order to bring some law and order into Somalia," Pierre Prosper, the lawyer, told The Washington Times. "Many of the trainers have experience and were contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Mr. Prosper said the agreement between Saracen and the TFG/Puntland government is for security training. "The donor is paying for the services of Saracen. The only contract I am aware of is between Saracen and the Somali government to provide the services," he said.

Mr. Prosper, who was President George W. Bush's ambassador at large on war-crimes issues between 2001 and 2005, would not disclose the identity of the donor.

**FILE** Somali government coast guards patrol the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia, on Dec. 6, 2009, to keep a watch for pirates who hijack ships off the coast. (Associated Press)

Mr. Prosper said, however, that "as of now, the donor is from a Muslim country that chooses to remain anonymous, due to various concerns, including their own domestic security. We have been in dialogue with the donor with the idea of them formally releasing a notice to the United Nations and becoming public."

Two U.S. officials familiar with the plans to create the anti-piracy force said one of the donors is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the United States' closest allies in the Persian Gulf. The embassy from the UAE declined to comment for this article.

To date, the training camp in Puntland has trained at least 100 members of the counter-piracy militia with a goal of training a thousand fighters in the coming months, Mr. Prosper said.

Earlier this month, Mr. Prosper briefed a U.N. monitoring group in Nairobi, Kenya, that had raised concerns that the new force could be violating U.N. sanctions on Somalia if the donors remained anonymous. He said that so far, no arms were shipped to the training camp, to the best of his knowledge.

The move to create anti-piracy forces in Somalia represents a new approach to the war in that country.

Until now, most international assistance to Somalia has been to the TFG based in Mogadishu through the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with troops provided by African armies. AMISOM's mission is focused on stability operations and protecting Mogadishu from the al Qaeda-linked insurgent group, Al-Shabab. The TFG currently controls most of the north of Somalia, with the south being largely controlled by Al-Shabab.

This new approach puts Saracen, the security contractor, in the role African armies traditionally play in AMISOM of training a security force.

The company has a controversial past in Africa. Salim Saleh, the younger brother of Uganda's president, is on the board of Saracen, Uganda.

Uganda is also one of the major donors to AMISOM. Saracen has also been closely linked to South Africa's military.

Saracen's chief operating officer, who signed the contract with the TFG, is Lafras Luitingh, a former South African intelligence officer who worked as a senior officer for Executive Outcomes, an Africa-based security contractor that was dissolved in 1999.

TFG officials have told some news services that Saracen also provides security for government officials in Mogadishu.

A top security adviser to the TFG said in a phone interview Tuesday from Somalia that the trainers associated with the mission included both black and white veterans of the South African military.

The fighters, according to the security adviser, "will be taught how to identify the pirates and where they are located, and how to defend themselves in a raid on a pirate base."

This adviser said the new anti-piracy force would in the future be equipped like any light infantry unit for a Western military. This would include receiving small arms, two-way radios, night-vision equipment and body armor.

Also involved in the training mission is a former CIA deputy station chief in Mogadishu named Michael Shanklin and other former special-forces officers affiliated with the U.S. and British militaries, according to sources familiar with the mission.

Duane Clarridge, a former senior CIA officer, who was also familiar with the plans for a new counter-piracy force in Somalia, said it was an example of how security contractors are doing the work traditionally associated with nation states.

"Nation states no longer have a monopoly on military force, intelligence, diplomacy or anything else," Mr. Clarridge said. "What's going on in Somalia, where you have skilled contractors training a counter-piracy force, is an example of where the future of the military is going. No government or group of governments can get their act together to do it, but someone has to do it, and they are doing it."

Until now, the United States and other allies have largely sought to deal with piracy using naval forces in international groups and escort convoys. In one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama in April 2009 gave an order for Navy SEALs to fire on pirates holding captive the American captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, resulting in his rescue.

That operation was conducted off the Somali mainland, an area U.S. forces have not entered publicly since U.S. forces left Somalia in March 1994, following a failed raid on a Somali warlord's safe house that became the basis for the book and movie, "Black Hawk Down."

"One of the reasons the United States is coordinating offshore and not onshore is because of the history there," said Charlie Szrom, a senior analyst and program manager for the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

"'Black Hawk Down' was the result of the last on-land U.S. engagement in Somalia," he said. "We can do these kinds of interceptions, you can cure some of the symptoms, but you will only have limited success if you limit counter-piracy to the sea and not the pirate coves on shore."

Elements of the training program were first reported by the Associated Press.

Source: The Washington Times

Somali pirates attempt hijacking near Mozambique

The spokesman for the European Union's anti-piracy force says Somali pirates have unsuccessfully targeted two ships, going farther south than ever before to attack vessels.

Paddy O'Kennedy says the pirates attempted to capture the NS Africa and Majestic in separate attacks in the Mozambique Channel over the Christmas weekend.

O'Kennedy said Wednesday that the attacks took place approximately 950 nautical miles south of Tanzania's main port, Dar es Salaam.

"These are the farthest south attacks we've got on record," says O'Kennedy. No other details were available.

Before the Christmas weekend attacks, the farthest south Somali pirates had reached was about 80 nautical miles east of the Tanzania-Mozambique border.

Source: The Associated Press

Dutch extend detention of Somali terror suspect

A Dutch judge Tuesday extended the detention of one suspect in an alleged terrorism plot by Somali immigrants. Prosecutors said two other Somalis remain suspects in the case, though they were released.

They were among 12 Somalis detained in Rotterdam last week in what prosecutors said was a move to stop an imminent attack against an unidentified target. No weapons or explosives were found.

The other nine have been cleared of suspicion and freed or handed to immigration authorities.

Six Somalis came from the 30,000-strong Somali community living in the Netherlands, and two came from Denmark. The others had no established permanent residence, authorities said.

At a hearing Tuesday, a judge extended the custody of a 29-year old Somali suspect for three days, prosecutors said, but refused their request to keep another suspect in jail for further investigation. Prosecutors said a third man also remains a suspect, though they did not seek to keep him jailed.

The Dutch investigation comes at a time of heightened concern over terrorism in Europe.

On Monday, British police charged nine men for plotting attacks on the U.S. Embassy in London and the London Stock Exchange. Last week an Iraqi-born Swede blew himself up in Stockholm, killing himself and wounding two people. A plan was uncovered last autumn involving random shooting sprees in cities in Britain, France or Germany.

Parcel bombs were sent to three embassies in Rome last week, injuring two people. Italian police said Tuesday the bombs were prepared by Italian anarchists.

The Dutch police action came Friday after a tip from the national intelligence service, the AIVD, that an attack was expected at any time.

Prosecutors said the target of the attack was not known.

Source: The Associated Press

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Somali refugees shelter in old Rome embassy

Crouched in a ruined salon of the former Somali embassy in Rome, a group of refugees cook dinner over an open fire, flames shooting up as someone adds an extra squirt of methylated spirits under the metal pot.

The building is one of the handsome red villas typical of Rome's diplomatic district but the broken windows and abandoned embassy cars rusting in the driveway stand out conspicuously in the prosperous neighbourhood.

Inside about 200 refugees live crammed into the four-storey building, which is still the property of the Somali state but was abandoned as an embassy after the collapse of the last stable government in Mogadishu in the 1990s.

"I left Somalia because there is a civil war which has been going on for 20 years," said Abukar Mohamed, who set out from Mogadishu in 2006 to come to Italy.

The historical connections created by Italy's colonial past in Somalia have long drawn refugees from the lawless nation on the Horn of Africa.

Most of the men in the building have valid papers allowing them to stay in Italy but, unable to find work or opportunities for study, many are desperate to go elsewhere where jobs are easier to find.

Mohamed Osman Ali, who arrived in Italy in 2008, has tried to enter Austria, Norway and Sweden but been sent back each time and now finds himself with no other home than the ruined embassy and its makeshift community.

The men organise cleaning and cooking among themselves, stow bedding away in the morning and keep order. But overcrowding and poverty mean that life is a grim struggle.

"We live eight or nine people in one room, some of us are sick with diseases like tuberculosis, and we get diseases from each other, skin diseases, respiratory diseases," he said.

Italian police raided the building just over a month ago following complaints from neighbours but after verifying papers, they sent everyone back to the embassy.

Tens of thousands of people have died and more than a million have been displaced in Somalia since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 by rival warlords who then turned on each other, leaving a vacuum that has opened the way to two decades of bloodshed.

The African Union has sent thousands of peacekeeping troops to support a succession of enfeebled administrations against Islamist insurgents and offer some security amid the anarchy that has engulfed the country.

Abukar Mohamed left Mogadishu in July 2006, travelling through Libya and reaching Sicily in 2007. He said he was given political asylum and told he could go wherever he wanted but he received no other assistance.

"My goal was to go abroad, build a future and study and lead a better life," he said.

"I'm a young man, I want to study, work and grow, this was my project. But what I found out is that my future and my life in Europe was destroyed, because I never had such a desperate life as here," he said.

Source: Reuters

Peaceful Somali Enclave Seeks New Business .

Southern Somalia is wrestling with virtual anarchy, but entrepreneurs and officials in this relatively stable, autonomous part of the north are touting their gains as a model for leading the region toward stability.

Somaliland has operated in relative peace since it declared independence in 1991, holding four democratic elections, fostering private businesses and building universities and hospitals—though the region still lacks official international recognition as an independent state.

In July, Somalilanders elected a new government of technocrats from educated diasporas in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. to run the dusty territory, which is home to about 3.5 million people, most of whom tend herds of cattle, goats and camels, or else have settled in the capital, Hargeisa.

Somaliland relies heavily on private businesses to employ its people, import equipment, invest in the economy and donate to the government.

The relative stability here has spurred new thinking from donors. "I'm impressed by what does go on in Somaliland," said Mark Bowden, the United Nations' resident and humanitarian coordinator. Mr. Bowden said international aid—currently about $100 million annually—could double next year.

The U.S. has boosted funding to $26 million from $7 million in 2009. The top U.S. diplomat on Africa, Johnnie Carson, recently said the U.S. would pursue a "second track" policy in Somalia that would include more engagement with Somaliland. The U.S. pledged about $40 million in aid to the Somali government in Mogadishu last year, but channels much of its support to the African Union peacekeeping force there, and to groups that provide food aid to the region.

"The U.S. for some time has been wasting taxpayers' dollars on a place called Mogadishu," said Hussein Abdi Dualeh, the newly appointed minister of mining, energy and water resources in Somaliland, who had been working until recently in California. Unlike the Somali capital, he says, "We're the part of Somalia that's functioning. The aid they give here won't be torn up by shrapnel."

Because Somaliland lacks recognition as an independent state, it can't secure loans from international banks, enter agreements with other governments, or provide the legal stability demanded by foreign investors.

The international community fears that recognition of Somaliland could lead to further border disputes in Africa. But as the Somali government to the south borders on collapse, that thinking has begun to change.

In the meantime, Somaliland officials have focused on luring back overseas Somali entrepreneurs with low taxes, light regulation and political stability. "There's a lot of opportunity in Somalia, we have to champion that," said Abdirashid Duale, the 36-year-old chief executive of Dahabshiil Group, and one of several members of the diaspora who have built booming businesses in agriculture, water bottling and telecommunications.

Mr. Duale went to high school in London, then joined the family business, a money-transfer service that sent funds in and out of Somalia. Dahabshiil has since become the largest money-transfer service in the Horn of Africa, handling much of the estimated $1.6 billion transferred home each year to Somalia, including Somaliland.

The company was started by his father in the early 1970s to help Somali workers in Gulf states get money home. When civil war broke out in Somalia in 1989, the business collapsed and the family fled to the U.K. The business was revived there, and now operates in 144 countries, including several U.S. states.

In a sign that Somaliland isn't beyond the reach of militants, the violent extremist group al Shabaab, which dominates much of southern Somalia, has said it will ban mobile-phone money transfer services as of Jan. 31. The services, a recent innovation here, have become a popular way to conduct business transactions in a mainly cash-based economy. In a statement in Arabic, Somali and English, tAl Shabaab said the mobile money-transfer services had been set up by the West to exploit Muslims.

The government in Mogadishu said the move was an effort by al Shabaab to undermine the private sector's hard-won economic gains. The Somali government, because it only controls part of Mogadishu and nothing else in the country, is largely powerless to stop it.

Al Shabaab militants, who control much of southern and central Somalia, govern by fear. In the past, they have beheaded those who defied them.

Al Shabaab has a presence in Somaliland, according to African Union and Somaliland government officials. The Somaliland government has been aggressive about monitoring the militants, with help from a largely cooperative population. But the group and other militants still manage at times to disrupt the region's calm.

Mr. Duale, whose company has a share in a mobile-transfer service, declined to comment on the al Shabaab decree, saying he was concerned he might antagonize the militants.

Mr. Duale divides his time between London, Dubai and Somaliland, and still runs the family business out of Hargeisa, with simple headquarters on a dusty street, where donkey carts compete with cars and women in colorful headscarves run small kiosks selling household goods.

Shortly after the new Somaliland president came to power this year, he called a meeting with several major businessmen, including Mr. Duale. The previous government had borrowed "tens of millions" of dollars from the private sector, according to one government official. Now it was asking for more.

Mr. Duale said the business owners agreed to help, as long as the government didn't try to impede their growth. In addition, Mr. Duale said he gives about $1 million each year to hospitals and universities in the community.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Dutch police free Somali suspects

One person remains in custody following arrest of 12 men in connection with alleged planned attacks in Rotterdam.

Dutch police have released 11 of 12 Somali men arrested in Rotterdam for alleged "terrorism" offences ahead of Christmas, while one man remains in custody, according to Dutch prosecutors.

Some of the freed men have been handed over to immigration authorities, prosecutors said in a statement posted on their website on Tuesday.

Two are still suspects, prosecutors said.

The men, all aged between 19 to 48, were detained after co-ordinated raids on locations including a hotel and an internet cafe on December 24.

The raids followed a warning by AIVD, the Dutch intelligence service, that several Somalis were planning an attack in the Netherlands.

No weapons or explosives were found, prosecutors said, and the intended target was unknown.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, quoting an unidentified intelligence source, said some of the Somalis arrested had planned to shoot down an Apache helicopter at the nearby Gilze-Rijen air base using a rocket-propelled grenade.

There has been speculation that, as Europe's biggest port and a large oil storage base, Rotterdam is strategically important and a potential target for attack.

Dutch intelligence declined to comment.

'Possible attack'

The prosecutors' statement said that the arrests on Friday "focused primarily on preventing a possible attack".

"The arrests followed on an AIVD message, which reported that a number of Somalis wanted to commit a terrorist attack in the Netherlands on December 24 or 25," it said.

Western authorities have been on high alert since a Middle East-born man blew himself up in Stockholm two weeks ago and a senior Iraqi official issued a warning that al-Qaeda was planning attacks in the United States, Britain and Europe.

Despite the arrests, the Dutch National Terrorism Co-ordinator left the terrorist alert level unchanged, indicating the likelihood of an attack was "limited".

But Dutch intelligence services have reportedly been closely watching the growing Somali community in the Netherlands.

One US citizen of Somali extraction is under arrest and is fighting extradition to the US, suspected of supplying money to the al-Shabab group for weapons and to finance trips for potential recruits.

The US state department and many European countries consider al-Shabab a terror group with links to al-Qaeda.

Source: Aljazeera

Somali pirates more dangerous than ever

It’s been another lucrative week for the barefoot buccaneers of Somalia. First they collected a $5.5-million ransom payment for a German-owned chemical tanker. Then, a day later, they hijacked another European cargo vessel, adding its eight crew members to their growing hoard of hostages.

This latest haul of ocean booty is fresh evidence that the world’s navies are facing failure in their massive campaign to defeat the Somali pirates. Despite years of efforts by the naval forces of Canada and dozens of other countries, the pirates are more dangerous than ever.

A growing number of security experts are concluding that the naval campaign just isn’t working. At last count, the increasingly brazen pirates were holding 26 vessels and 609 hostages off the coast of Somalia, according to a European Union anti-piracy force.

The hugely expensive effort against the pirates, including six naval ships from Canada alone in the past few years, has failed to slow down the rate of piracy. The number of hijackings by Somali pirates has steadily increased in recent years, with the Somalis accounting for 35 of the world’s 39 ships hijacked in the first nine months of this year.

Moreover, the Somali buccaneers are roaming over a much bigger territory and causing greater damage. The average ransom payment to the Somalis has doubled to $5-million. They are holding their hostages for up to 120 days – twice as long as in the past. They even used a hijacked freighter to attack a naval warship that was escorting supplies for African peacekeepers.

In an effort to crush the pirates, a fleet of 40 warships from 30 countries is patrolling the waters near Somalia. The anti-piracy flotilla is “the largest naval armada the world has seen in recent times,” says Deborah Akoth Osiro, a researcher at the Nairobi office of the Institute for Security Studies.

“Yet, rather than contain the problem, the warships have driven Somali pirates further into the Indian Ocean,” she said in the latest issue of the institute’s journal. “There have been numerous attempts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, yet it is escalating.”

Ms. Osiro estimates that there are 1,000 to 1,500 Somali pirates operating in the seas today, roaming as far as 2,000 kilometres from their base in Somalia. They have launched attacks as far south as the Mozambican channel, as far north as the Red Sea, and as far east as the Maldives and the southern coast of India.

“This is a vast area, and the navies cannot realistically cover it,” Captain Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau, said in a recent report. The bureau is urging vessels to stay at least 600 nautical miles away from Somalia’s coastline – although even that distance might be insufficient to protect themselves.

A senior United Nations official, Lynn Pascoe, described the piracy situation as “appalling.” In a report last month, he warned that the Somali piracy crisis is “outpacing” the international efforts to solve it.

A study by the U.S. government in September found that Somali attacks had soared dramatically in the past three years – from 40 attacks in 2007 to a reported 218 attacks last year. The number of hostages seized by the pirates rose fivefold in the same period, reaching 867 hostages last year, and the total amount of ransoms increased from $3-million in 2007 to about $74-million last year.

There are “not enough naval vessels among all of the combined navies in the world” to patrol the entire area of operations of the Somali pirates, the study concluded.

The pirates are often surprisingly low-tech. They bump across the waves in small skiffs, clambering barefoot as they scale the walls of ships, and their weapons are often so old that they are rusty. But they are increasingly violent and ruthless, not hesitating to fire their automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. And they have successfully dodged the anti-piracy fleet, putting their speedboats onto larger “mother ships” – or hijacked vessels – so that they can travel far away from the naval armada before launching their attacks.

The pirates are supported by shadowy financiers who are rarely caught. There is growing evidence that Somalia’s Islamic militants, including the feared al-Shabab radical group, are beginning to use piracy to raise money for their relentless rebellion against Somalia’s government.

Ship owners are responding with a dizzying array of defensive tactics: sonic beams; laser pointers; water cannons; rolls of razor wire; barred windows; lubricant foam to make stairways dangerous; teams of guards with sniper rifles, and “safe rooms” with reinforced steel walls to protect the crew if the pirates climb aboard. But none of this is working, and desperate governments are looking at new options.

They have searched for countries willing to put the pirates on trial and imprison them, but almost every country in Africa (and in the West) is unwilling. Kenya has conducted most of the piracy trials, but it complains of being the “dumping ground” for arrested pirates. The Kenyan government is threatening to halt the trials unless it gets more money for its overloaded legal system.

Nobody knows what to do with the pirates. Hundreds of them are simply disarmed and released after they are captured. Shipping companies continue to pay ransoms, even to suspected terrorists, because they know that a refusal to pay ransoms could damage their commercial interests.

In desperation, many governments and ship owners are turning to mercenaries and private security armies. London-based insurance and shipping companies, for example, are planning to support a private navy of 20 armed patrol boats, with mercenaries on board. But the legal status of these mercenaries is unclear, and their existence could lead to controversial actions such as gun-running and executions at sea. In South Africa this month, police arrested four people who were allegedly smuggling weapons for an anti-piracy force in Somalia.

“A return to privateering indicates that the Somali buccaneers have overwhelmed the naval armada,” Ms. Osiro says. “The common thread of these anti-piracy responses is that they follow the path of least resistance. They seem to have been chosen to provide cosmetic solutions and circumnavigate the only obvious resolution: stabilizing Somalia.”


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Immigrants' struggles and identities are evident - online

A new historical archive at the University of Minnesota explores social networking posts of new Americans.

History is filled with tales of immigrants leaving the old country and settling into ethnic neighborhoods where they could struggle to master a new language and culture without obliterating their identity.

When history is written of the current wave of immigration, social networking online will tell a very different story of how immigrants are regrouping in America. Digital immigrant communities already are being mined by historians intent on capturing the first wave of the American immigrant experience online.

Social networking sites have become the new ethnic enclaves where young immigrants post detailed accounts of their struggles and connect with other new Americans. Those online jottings are viewed as a gold mine by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center who spent nine months capturing the Facebook conversations of young Hmong, Mexican and Somali immigrants in Minnesota to create a new digital archive.

For Yuridia Ramirez, a student researcher on the project, the growing archive captures the importance social networking has played in her own journey to form her Mexican-American identity.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she grew up in a small Wisconsin town, where her family was the only Mexican family around. When she arrived at the University of Minnesota, she longed to know more about her roots and meet others from her background.

"I really yearned to have Latino friends and friends that I could relate to and organizations that I thought were representative of my culture," she said.

"It's a very small community at the U,'' Ramirez said, "so Facebook has been integral in helping me find those things that are important to me."

Such Facebook discussions are valuable artifacts, explained University of Minnesota history professor Donna Gabaccia, because they offer a rare glimpse into the lives of teen and twentysomething immigrants.

"Among the project's key findings: Facebook is giving immigrant and refugee youths new spaces to explore and form their cultural identities.

Led by Gabaccia, the research center director, seven students studied discussions of Facebook groups focusing on issues affecting Hmong, Somali and Mexican-American youths. Researchers chose those groups because they are the state's largest immigrant populations.

"You find people writing from multiple locations and multiple countries," Gabaccia said. Discussion themes included homeland politics, education and cultural identity. Some conversations become heated.

For example, Spanish-speakers weighed in on this debate over a topic called: "Hablar Spanglish Es Devaluar El Espanol," or "Speaking Spanglish is devaluing the Spanish language."

This excerpt was saved to the U's archive:

Moises: "Ignorant people speak spanglish."

Jose: "I speak como yo quiero according to the Freedom of Speech, ya'all can have tus opinions. HOOAH."

Jose: "Also, I have professors here that say 75% of Spanish is from Arabic, like everything with "el" in front, like El Chingon ... food for thought.''

A young woman named Janet then jumps in, arguing "it takes talent to speak Spanglish'' because "you need to know both languages in order to put them together.''

Online correspondence, marked by its informal and immediate nature, is unlike most other documents found in historical archives.

Andy Wilhide, one of the students working on the project, compared it to a transcript of a telephone conference call.

Unlike oral histories, which rely on community elders reflecting on what they've experienced, the digital records capture the voices of young people as they're in the midst of defining their new American identities.

For example, one discussion began when someone posted this question to fellow Hmong-Americans: "When people ask you what Hmong is, how do you reply or explain 'Hmong'"?

Soua: "We are just people from southeast asia. You can say that we are kind of like Chinese. (something like that)''

Ka: "ethnic group from south east asia."

Samantha: "I tell them to watch Gran Torino."'

Souny: "We are indigenous people living traditionally in mountain villages in southern China and adjacent areas of Vietnam and Laos and Thailand. ... We call ourselves "Hmong" which means 'free man.'"

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

Source: The Star Tribune.

SOMALIA: Pick of the year

Few countries generate such a volume and breadth of coverage by IRIN as Somalia. Here are some of the year’s highlights, including stories that give a voice to individuals caught up in the conflict between government forces and Islamist insurgents – and to those working selflessly to make life better for others – as well as explorations of how the crisis in Somalia spills over its borders.

These articles explain:

- How ambulance crews rescue conflict casualties dying on the shell-strewn streets of Mogadishu

- How one woman’s passion for medicine led her to set up the only teaching hospital in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland

- What it is like for a mother to dodge militias and search for lost loved ones while fleeing Mogadishu for life as a refugee in a dusty camp in neighbouring Kenya

- Why watching football or going to see a film can be dangerous and how the country’s passion for football nevertheless remains undimmed

- How the conflict has adversely affected security in the northeast of neighbouring Kenya

- The challenges facing the new prime minister in ending violence and battling corruption

- How pirates deprive IDPs of relative sanctuary by buying up land where camps have been set up and evicting the residents, who, in the absence of any significant presence by aid workers, have to manage their own humanitarian needs

- That primary school is a road to educational nowhere in the Gedo region and how, in the insurgent-occupied city of Kismayo, the first university graduates are celebrating

- The challenges of working as a journalist in a perpetual warzone as well as the defiantly witty response (croaking frogs come into it) of some broadcasters to a ban on airing any form of music

- How the livestock trade in the borderlands between Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia is thriving, despite the rampant insecurity in Somalia

- How Somali refugees endure police harassment in Kenya

- Why the new president of the self-declared independent state of Somaliland has his work cut out to avert a crisis after clashes with rebel groups in the eastern Sool region

Source: IRIN

Young football players face prosecution by Al-Shabaab militia

The town of Gorowe which is the capital of Puntland Region of Somalia is currently hosting a football tournament between 15 regions of the war ravaged nation of Somalia. Among the participating teams, is the team from Hiiraan Region which is part of the vast territory in southern Somalia currently under the control of the Al-Shabaab militia. Al-Shabaab leaders in Belet Wein which is the regional capital of Hiiraan State issued a serious warning to the young players and their coaches ordering them not to leave the town or face a prosecution should they participate in the football competition arranged by the country’s Football Federation in Gorowe in Puntland. The Somali Football Federation chose Puntland as the venue for this soccer tournament because of its relative stability compared to the country’s capital, Mogadishu, and other cities in the south.

The boys’ defiance of the Al-Shabaab order

Despite the warning by the Al-Shabaab militia, the Hiiraan football team chose to travel to Puntland in order to take part in the competition there. In fact, the young boys had to sneak out of town without the knowledge and the permission of the Al-Shabaab. The trainers say they took that decision after a serious deliberation with the boys. According to the coaches, the team could choose to abide the orders of Al-Shabaab for its own safety and remain absent from the football competition, but they say doing so would have disappointed thousands of their supporters in the region which they represent. Absence from the games would have also been a great disappointment for the young football players themselves as they have been looking forward to this event for quite some time.

The Al-Shabaab hate for the football

Al-Shabaab is known to have carried out terror attacks inside and outside Somalia. The feared militia has a history of being at odd with the football game which preoccupies many of the youth of Somalia who are unfortunately deprived of the basic needs of life, like education and employment, due to the protracted civil war in their country. Al-Shabaab’s hostility towards football emanates from the fact that football deprives this notorious organization the supply of young militiamen. The organization seeks to draw the attention of the young men to itself and induce them to join its ranks. One of the tricks applied by it is to prohibit and deprive the youth of all possible sources of entertainment including football, making its violent culture of gun-tooting the only option and the way of life available to the young men. It is not surprising the organization’s choice of its first terror attack outside Somalia in a football arena in Kampala in Uganda. The terrorist organization carried out twin suicide bomb-blasts in a bar in Kampala where many football enthusiastic young people were watching on a big TV-screen the final match of FIFA world cup 2010 in South Africa. While Al-Shabaab claimed the responsibility of carrying out the terror attacks in Kampala in order to revenge on Ugandan government for sending its forces to Mogadishu in Somalia to support the internationally recognized weak and fragile central government there. For the Al-Shabaab, the choice of this soft target was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, meaning revenging on both the Ugandan government and the football game.

Focus on the game despite the fear

One can imagine the toil and the pressure on their concentration on the matches as a result of the risk of prosecution hanging over their heads and as well as not knowing where to go after the matches are wrapped up in few days. So far, the team has qualified itself to the quart-final, becoming the second team to qualify from Group A after the Puntland team of Nugaal which hosts the tournament. In the past things were the opposite, before the civil war Hiiraan region was the dominant in the game in Central Somalia and all the other teams in its group would have to contend for grabbing the second position. So far, the weak performance in the ongoing competition by the teams from the unstable southern regions testifies how a war ravages a society and reverses its progress, whereas the advancement made by the Puntland teams signifies the dividend of peace and stability. The coaches and the players are grateful to the people of Puntland for their hospitality and for also affording them the opportunity of playing football in a peaceful and harmonic atmosphere. The boys hope to win the tournament and bring the cup home, but the question is: can they return to their home region as long as the threat to their lives labeled against them by Al-Shabaab remains in force?

Al Shabaab repeats its prosecution threat

Meanwhile, the local Al-Shabaab militia leaders who are furious of the players’ defiance of the order which prohibited the team’s participation in the games have repeated and reinforced the threat of prosecuting the players once they return to the region. So far, such a threat still remains in place and there has been no utterance from the senior leaders in the organization revoking that cruel decision. It’s not known why the Al-Shabaab has singled out the Hiiraan Team, while some of the other teams participating in the same tournament are from regions under the control of the militia. Al-Shabaab is believed to have almost no local support in Hiiraan region and has to heavily rely on armed militiamen from the Bay region where one of its senior leaders, Mukhtar Robow, known as Abu Mansur comes from. The organization carried out its first high profile assassination of government member in the same region when it killed in a suicide car-bomb the country’s former security minister Omar Hashi Aden who hailed from the Hiiraan Region whose capital city Belet Wein is just 30KM from the Somalia’s border with Ethiopia. The same attack left behind dozens of others dead and many more injured. The minister was in his home region in order to prepare armed resistance against the Al-Shabaab and evict it from its southern strongholds. Meanwhile the African Union forces AMISOM in Somalia boosts the number of its troops and is planning to expand its operations outside Mogadishu. The region is one of the few places outside Mogadishu where the Al-Shabaab militia faces continuous armed resistance from the local population and is aware of its vulnerability in the same region.

Cry for help

The Football Federation of the impoverished and the war-torn nation is aware of the plight of Hiiraan Team and the risk to their lives by eventual Al-Shabaab prosecution, but it has almost nothing to offer to the young players who have no place to return once the football competition is over. No nation in the world, whether giant or small, ignores today a threat directed to it or to its citizens by Al-Shabaab as this Al-Qaida affiliated organization which some call the African Taliban, is known for making its threats real. It will totally be a fatal mistake to ignore the serious danger faced by these young soccer players. Thus, the foreign embassies and the NGOs accredited to Somalia as well as the international community as a whole have all a moral duty to come to the rescue of the boys who face prosecution by Al-Shabaab even though all they have done is just to love the football game. The players cannot go back to their home where they risk unfair and unjust prosecution. All they need at the moment is a temporary place to stay until their faith is clear and a final solution is found, so they can continue to train in peace and prepare for next tournament.

Hiiraan Diaspora in North America

Source: Hiiraan Online

Refugees turn to State for help

Refugees at Dadaab Camp have appealed to the government to improve their living conditions.

They accused the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of ignoring its mandate to provide basic amenities that will allow them lead decent lives.

The camp, designed to house 90,000 refugees, now holds over 300,000 families.

This has resulted in poor sanitation and put pressure on the waste disposal system.

People are forced to use ‘flying toilets’ at night, exposing them to the risk of cholera outbreak.

Chairman of the Dadaab Minority Camp, Mr Mohammed Abdi Odhowa, said the UN agency only provides them with food stamps.

Mr Mohammed said despite forwarding their grievances to the field officers, hundreds of families spend the days in the scorching sun and the nights in the cold for lack of shelter.

“Why do they have to take in more refugees when the existing masses are living like animals in the open air?” posed Mr Odhowa.

He appealed to the government to supply them with tents, mosquito nets and water.

At least 800 foreigners, mostly from Somalia, are registered every month at the Ifo, Dagahley and Hagardere refugee camps under the central supervision of UNHCR officers in Dadaab.

The refugees are fleeing the 21-year civil war that has claimed more than 400,000 lives and displaced over a million people.

Mr Odhowa said minorities like the Somali Bantu are discriminated against during distribution of food and other services — which are controlled by the ethnic Somalis.

“The Kenyan IDPs are treated equally in all fronts, what will you make of your life when you are discriminated against by your own community every day while you are grappling with cold, disease and all forms of neglect by the UNHCR?” he asked.

Confirming the housing crisis at the camps, UNHCR spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera told the Nation they were building new camps and the refugees will be relocated next year to ease congestion.

“New Ifo (II) camp is a measure to offset the overpopulation we’ve experienced in the set up, even so, we provide make shift tents but the population is really overwhelming,” said Mr Nyabera.

Source: Daily Nation

Sixth Somali terror suspect released

A sixth Somali national, arrested on Friday on suspicion of involvement in terrorism was released on Monday without charge.

Twelve men were arrested on Friday night and five were released on Sunday.

The fate of the remaining six will be decided tomorrow. A spokesman for the public prosecution department said it would announce on Tuesday how many of them it wished to investigate further.

The arrests followed a tip-off from the AIVD security service which said the men were planning an attack on a Dutch target in the near future.


The lawyer of two of the men released on Sunday has called for an investigation into the way the AIVD does its work.

‘One can only assume the AIVD has made a mistake if you release suspects so quickly,’ Michael Ruperti is quoted as saying by the AD.

Ruperti’s clients also plan to claim damages for their arrest. The two were picked up, handcuffed and blindfolded and not told they were wanted on terrorism charges until Saturday, Ruperti said.


Somali pirates to release tanker, 22 crew after $5.5M ransom

The tanker Marida Marguerite, captured in May by Somali pirates, is slated to be released now that a ransom was paid. The vessel is owned by W-O Shipping Group and has a crew of 22 sailors.

The 13,000-ton vessel and crew were captured 120 miles south of the Omani port of Salalah in a protected shipping corridor.

The ship is registered in the United Stated and managed by German firm W-O.

The tanker had been held on the northeastern Indian Ocean coast near Garacad. However, it had been moved to a location off the Gulf of Aden Coast near Habo.

Official negotiations for release of the vessel and crew reportedly wrapped up some time ago however, an internal conflict with the pirates delayed the official resolution. That issue appears to have been solved.

The pirates were reportedly paid $5.5 million on Sunday.

Source: AHN

Monday, December 27, 2010

Somali Islamist insurgents threaten US attack

A leader of Somalia's Islamist insurgency threatened to attack America during a speech broadcast Monday.

"We tell the American President Barack Obama to embrace Islam before we come to his country," said Fuad Mohamed "Shongole" Qalaf.

Al-Shabab has not yet launched an attack outside Africa but Western intelligence has long been worried because the group targeted young Somali-Americans for recruitment. About 20 have traveled to Somalia for training and at least three were used as suicide bombers inside Somalia. Al-Shabab holds most of southern and central Somalia and has the support of hundreds of foreign fighters, mostly radicalized East Africans.

It seeks to overthrow the weak U.N.-backed government, which is protected by 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian African Union peacekeepers.

The al-Shabab militia launched coordinated suicide attacks in Uganda in July that killed 76 people. It has also announced its allegiance to al-Qaida and is believed to be harboring a mastermind of the twin 2008 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

The radio message was recorded in the town of Afgoye, near the Somali capital, during a meeting of Shongole and Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, formerly the leader of insurgent group Hizbul Islam. The two insurgent groups had clashed several times previously but announced a merger last week. Aweys said his group will fight under al-Shabab's command.

"We have united for the sake of our ideology and we are going to redouble our efforts to remove the government and the African Union from the country," said Aweys on Monday.

In an unrelated development, the Somali information minister said the new Cabinet had approved the use of a private security contractor to train forces in the capital of Mogadishu and the program would start "soon".

Saracen International would train forces for VIP protection, said Abdulkareem Jama. He said he did not know exactly when training would start, what the men's duties would include or how many men would be trained but he said the program included the renovation of a hospital and government buildings.

Somali officials are frequently killed by insurgents, both in single assassinations and en masse in suicide bombings and attacks. The Somali ambassador in Kenya previously said that up to 1,000 men could be trained in the capital for an anti-piracy force and 300 for a presidential guard.

Saracen is already training 1,000 men for an anti-piracy force in the semiautonomous northern region of Puntland.

The program has been criticized by U.S. officials who say it is unclear who is funding it, what its objectives are and whether it breaks a U.N. arms embargo.

Jama said the Somali cabinet had discussed those issues and were satisfied the embargo was not being broken but he did not say who was funding the program.

"There is a need for training," he said. "There was an effort to slow down the project (in Mogadishu) because of those concerns."

The arid Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government since a socialist dictatorship collapsed in 1991. Its position on the Horn of Africa means pirates can use its long coastline to capture shipping.

Analysts fear that al-Qaida linked insurgents are also gaining ground across the Gulf of Aden in the unstable nation of Yemen. If Yemen fell, that would mean failed states on either side of the shipping route leading into the strategically vital Suez Canal, the route taken by a substantial portion of the world's oil shipments.

Associated Press writer Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.

Source: The Associated Press.

Syria arrests, tortures, deports Somali immigrants

Syrian security forces on the border with Turkey arrested, tortured and threatened deportation to at least 11 Somali immigrants who escaped from the violence in their country, police sources said.

The war weary fleeing Somalis have considered Syria as safe sanctuary and human rights’ minder, but instead they are jailed, beaten and deported back to the ‘hell’ in Somalia.

Four of the immigrants who are women have escaped from Somalia after Somalia’s extremist group of Alshabaab have tried to get them forcibly married to foreign terrorists in their ranks.

" The 11 Somalis are in our jails and they were arrested on their to Turkey from Syria two weeks ago" A Syrian police official who asked not to be named says.

" Our commanders have ordered to punish them for the reason of entering Syria and deport them after a week" he added.

According to the police, the immigrants will be deported back to the world’s most dangerous country, Somalia where they have left for security reasons and poverty.

Last week, human rights watch has angrily ordered Saudi Arabia to stop deporting Somalis fleeing their violence ridden country after Saudi authorities returned at least 150 Somali nationals, many of them children, from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on December 17, 2010, press reports said. Saudi Arabia had deported an estimated 2,000 Somalis to Mogadishu in June and July, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

No comments could be reached from the human rights’ groups on the matter.

Somalis in their country are subject to abuses by Somalia’s extremist group Alshabaab. Since last year, Alshabaab have executed more than 40 people after an ad-hoc courts’ verdicts without evidence of the alleged crimes.

Al-Shabab, which vows allegiance to al-Qaida and whose members include foreign fighters, controls large parts of southern Somalia and much of the capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia has not had an effective central government for 19 years. The U.N.-backed government controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu, while its allies control much of central Somalia.

Shuaib Gemal, is a freelance journalist based in Damascus, Syria. He writes for different int't and local media. He can be reached at:

Source: Suna Time.

Dutch clear 5 Somalis suspected in terror plot

Dutch authorities have cleared five of the 12 Somali men who were detained Christmas Eve on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack in the Netherlands.

Prosecutors said Sunday they had no evidence of criminal involvement against the five men, but the investigation of the other seven was continuing.

The prosecturos must decide by Tuesday whether to bring the remaining Somalis before a judge or let them go.

The men were picked up in Rotterdam after a tip from intelligence services that an attack might be imminent.

There was no information on the alleged target, although Rotterdam is one of Europe's biggest commercial hubs, with a huge port and large oil and gas storage facilities.

Three of the detainees who had no valid residency permits were turned over to immigration police, prosecutors said. Two of them were residents of Denmark and the residency of the third was not established. Two Dutch residents were released.

Police raid internet cafe, motel rooms

On Friday, police raided an internet cafe, four homes and two motel rooms but found no weapons or explosives.

Authorities said they cannot know for sure if they prevented a terrorist assault, but they did not want to take any risks.

"What we did is take away the threat that was formed by these people," prosecutor Gerrit van der Burg said Saturday on national television.

The weekend action was not enough to raise the general threat level set by the National Terrorism Co-ordinator, which remained at "limited." Authorities believe the Netherlands could be targeted by Islamic radicals because of the high-profile anti-Islam campaign by one of the country's most popular politicians, Geert Wilders.

The terrorist alert came a year after a Nigerian student, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, passed through Amsterdam airport on a flight to Detroit, where he allegedly tried to ignite explosives taped to his underwear as the plane made its descent to its U.S. destination.

Source: The Canadian Press

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Understanding nature of conflict in Somalia


BY: Cabduulahi Warfa

Unlike many African countries, Somalia is one of the most homogeneous countries in Africa. All Somalis are Muslim Sunni, and enjoy same culture and language. They are one tribe with clans and sub-clans. However, Somalia faced most catastrophic war in Africa for last twenty years. There have been numerous attempts, both internal and external at finding compromise and sustainable peace in Somalia. At least seventeen Conferences have been held in different places at different times, in which most of them ended with failure. Today, Somalia is without effective government with Al –Shabab taking most of the southern Somalia under their regime. The violence in Somalia is not till born conflict but of proliferation of structure violence representing as complex interrelated political, social, and economic back ground. However, the problem of violence can be studied at three levels; direct violence, structural violence, and social violence.

War, killing, rape, and any form of physical damage are examples of direct violence, which is visible. On the other hand, structural violence which is invisible is product of social, political, and economic systems. Examples of this kind include oppression, poverty, hunger, discrimination (based on race, religion, gender, etc).

John Galtung was the first scholar who to introduce the concept of structure violence in 1976, in attempt to explain the effects of inequalities in human being (Galtung: 1969) accordingly this, structural violence stems from social, political and economic systems, creating disparities between groups of people. Moreover, Galtung argues that structural violence is not inevitable: it can be avoided by changing behavior. He maintains that structural violence causes direct violence. Those that are exploited or oppressed accommodate violence as instrument for change. Somalia’s conflict can be understood According to this concept.

Pre colonial era, Somalia’s life was nomadic nature without complexity, all you needed was to belong a clan, which was central fact of the society, clan served as the source for governing, and conflict managing. History reminds us that there was some times tension between the clans over scarce resources such as grazing and water. Historically Elders had played major role through mediations and negotiations to end such conflict.

In Colonial era, Somalia was Balkanized into colonial enclaves, in which new and entirely different colonial culture, economic and governance institutions were introduced. During this period, Somalis suffered harsh at the hands of the new imperial colonists. They were subjugated, exploited and lived inferior conditions. As reaction to this oppression and exploitation new armed struggle against colonial powers was on surface, led by Sayid Mohamed Abdulle called Mad Mullah by British, in which many died.

After long struggle, Somalia gained independency on 1960 announcing first Republic of Somalia and Aden Abdulla became head of the government, at this period, citizens enjoyed a high political participation under Aden Abdulla and more youth immigrated toward urban areas to find better life. However, the newly selected government poorly educated lacked essentials of running the country’s affairs such as resource managing, distributing wealth and failed to fulfill employment equality between citizens. Corruption was at high level. This accelerated intervention of the military establishment into political agenda. October, 1969, the first selected government was ended by Gen. Barre as was termed the bloodless coup. Mr. Barre created a governing body called the revolutionary council to run affairs in the country.

In the early days of the military regime there was undeniable success in building institutions, schools, writing down Somali language script guaranteeing free education, medical, developing infrastructure and call to bury tribalism which seemed as breading source for social fragmentary was not exceptional. The principle of equality had been encouraged to enhance social and economic opportunity for all.

However, the Regime with funds from international partners began to build up one of the largest standing armies in Sub- Sahara of Africa and allocated much of state resource for that purpose. Such an excessive armament negatively came on price of the grieved poor Somalis, but also sent a frightening massage to Ethiopia, the traditional enemy of Somalia. Often, Ethiopia and Somalia have had tensions on Ogadenia (Somali-galbeed).

As Barre’s government was weakened politically and economically in mid 1980s, the situation was fuelled by many unemployed youth who stayed at streets looking for opportunity of survival. This was alarming bell that Somalia was heading toward worse.

On the other hand, liberation movements based on their clan identity and backed by Ethiopia began flourishing across the Country, eventually leading to the civil war.

Finally, to understand the roots of the conflict in Somalia it is necessary to look back and draw lessons from the past; this will enable us to put the frame work for any future peace process and will enhance our standing of essentials of peace, stability, and development in Somalia. What we would look at in details could be: 1) Pre-Colonial Era, 2) Colonial Period 3) after Independency 4) and Military regime period.

After comprehensive details of each stage and more discussion on what was right, what was wrong, then we can move toward next phase of reconciliation and mediation, after that, in the third phase we will be able to talk about stability, peace, development , human security, esc.

Cabduulahi Warfa

FACTBOX-Ships held by Somali pirates

Here are details of ships held by Somali pirates:

* SOCOTRA 1: Seized on Dec. 25, 2009. Yemeni-owned ship was captured in the Gulf of Aden after it left Alshahr in Yemen. SixYemeni crew.

* ICEBERG 1: Seized on March 29, 2010. Roll-on roll-off vessel taken 10 miles from Aden. 24 crew.

* JIH-CHUN TSAI 68: Seized on March 30: A Taiwan-flagged and owned fishing vessel. 14 crew -- Taiwanese captain, two Chinese
and 11 Indonesians.

* RAK AFRIKANA: Seized on April 11. The St Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged 7,561-dwt cargo ship was taken 280 miles west of Seychelles. Owned by Seychelles' Rak Afrikana Shipping Ltd.

* Three Thai fishing vessels -- PRANTALAY 11, 12 and 14 -- hijacked on April 17-18. 77 crew.

* TAI YUAN 227: Seized on May 6: Taiwanese fishing boat. 24 crew -- nine Chinese, three Vietnamese, three Filipinos, seven Kenyans and two from Mozambique.

* AL-DHAFIR: Seized on May 7. Yemeni fishing boat seized off Yemen. Seven Yemeni crew.

* MARIDA MARGUERITE: Seized on May 8. The chemical tanker en route from Kandla in Gujarat, India to Antwerp, Belgium hijacked in Gulf of Aden. 22 crew -- 19 Indians, two Bangladeshis, one

* MOTIVATOR: Seized on July 4. Marshall Islands-flagged 13,065-dwt tanker hijacked in Red Sea. 18 Filipino crew.

* SUEZ: Seized on Aug. 2. Panama-flagged cargo ship hijacked in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden. Carrying cement. 23 crew from Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.

* OLIB G: Seized on Sept. 8. Maltese-flagged merchant vessel seized in IRTC. 18 crew -- 15 Georgians, three Turks.

* ASPHALT VENTURE: Seized on Sept. 29: The 3,884-dwt bitumen carrier was heading to Durban from Mombasa. 15 Indian crew.

* GOLDEN WAVE: Seized on Oct. 9. South-Korean fishing vessel Golden Wave formerly known as Keummi 305. 43 crew -- 39 Kenyans, two Koreans and two Chinese.

* IZUMI: Seized on Oct. 10. Operated by NYK-Hinode Line Ltd, the Panama-flagged ship was en route to Mombasa with cargo of steel. 20 Filipino crew.

* YORK: Seized on Oct. 23: Singapore-flagged, Greek managed, LPG tanker seized 50 miles from Mombasa. The 5,076-dwt York was sailing empty after discharging her LPG cargo in Mombasa. 17
crew -- a German master, two Ukrainians, 14 Filipinos.

* CHOIZIL: Seized on Oct. 26. South-African owned yacht was hijacked after leaving Dar es Salaam. European Union anti-piracy task force in the area rescued one South African but two other crew members were taken ashore as hostages.

* AL-NASSR: Seized Oct. 28. Motorized dhow captured off Yemeni island of Socotra.

* POLAR: Seized on Oct 30: Liberian-owned Panama-flagged tanker 72,825 tonne tanker seized 580 miles east of Socotra. 24 crew -- one Romanian, three Greeks, four Montenegrins, 16 Filipinos.

* ALY ZULFECAR: Seized on Nov. 2. Comoran passenger boat was taken inside Tanzania's territorial waters. Nine crew -- one Tanzanian, four Comorian, four Madagascar. Also 12 Tanzanian and 8 Comorian passengers.

* HANNIBAL II: Seized on Nov. 11. Panama-flagged chemical tanker was taken 860 miles east of Horn of Africa, EU Navfor said. The 24,105 tonne vessel was sailing to Suez from Malaysia carrying vegetable oil. 31 crew -- 23 Tunisians, four Filipinos, a Croat, a Georgian, a Russian and a Moroccan.

* YUAN XIANG: Seized on Nov. 12. Chinese-owned cargo ship, was captured off Oman. 29 Chinese crew.

* ALBEDO: Seized on Nov. 26. Malaysian-owned cargo vessel was taken 900 miles off Somalia as it headed for Mombasa from Jebel Ali in United Arab Emirates. 23 crew -- from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.

* JAHAN MONI: Seized on Dec. 5. Merchant ship was 1,300 miles east of Somalia. En route from Indonesia to Greece via Singapore carrying 43,000 tonnes of nickel ore. 26 crew.

* PANAMA: Seized on Dec. 10: Liberian-flagged container ship operated by a U.S.-based company. En route from Tanzania to Beira. 23 crew from Myanmar.

* RENUAR: Seized on Dec. 11: Liberian-owned bulk cargo vessel, 70,156 dwt, captured en route to Fujairah from Port Louis. 24 Filipino crew.

* ORNA: Seized on Dec. 20: The Panama-flagged bulk cargo vessel, 27,915 dwt, owned by the United Arab Emirates, was seized 400 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles.

* THOR NEXUS: Seized on Dec. 25. The Thai-registered bulk carrier, 20,377 dwt, was hijacked 350 miles off Oman. 27 crew, all Thai.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

Sources: Reuters/Ecoterra International/International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre/Lloyds List/

Somali pirates hijack cargo ship

The European Union's anti-piracy force says a Thai-owned cargo ship has been hijacked in the Arabian Sea.

The EU force says Somali pirates hijacked the MV Thor Nexus early Saturday about 450 nautical miles northeast of Yemen's island of Socorta.

The MV Thor Nexus was headed to Bangladesh after leaving the United Arab Emirates, the EU force said in a statement. There are 27 crew members, all Thai, on board the ship, it said.

Saturday's hijacking brings to 25 the vessels held by Somali pirates, the EU force said. The pirates are also holding about 601 crew members.

Somali pirates are able to operate because of Somalia's lawlessness. The Horn of Africa nation has been without an effective government for 19 years.

Source: The Associated Press

Somalis are desperate for a new life, but refugees face a dangerous road

Deka Mohamed Idou sat under a tree, exhausted after a grueling six-day journey. She touched her belly, yearning for her unborn child to kick.

This is why she took the long, bumpy road out of Mogadishu: War. A missing husband and three missing children. A shattered house.

This is why she's here in this wind-swept no man's land between Somalia and Djibouti: Peace. Work. An education for her two other children. She can't see what awaits them. Perhaps sanctuary. Perhaps more suffering. But she's certain of one thing.

"I will deliver my baby in a place without gunfire," she said.

For Somalis, the road out of Mogadishu is a last resort. Those traveling on it have fled homes abruptly with terrified children, and crossed a wilderness of thieves, armed Islamists and marauding tribesmen. Many have been robbed, beaten, raped, even killed.

The situation in Mogadishu has become so bad that nearly 300,000 Somalis have made their way out this year, swelling the ranks of what is, after Iraq and Afghanistan, the third-largest refugee population from any country in the world. Most are women and children. The men who have survived have stayed behind to protect their homes, or they went ahead. Some have vanished in the chaos. Others are fighting.

The road, and the places along it, is the most visible evidence of a population still disintegrating, amid hopelessness and death, two decades after the collapse of Siad Barre's government plunged Somalia into an endless civil war.

Today, al-Shabab, a militia linked to al-Qaeda, controls large chunks of the Muslim country and seeks to overthrow the fragile U.S.-backed government. The militia's Taliban-like decrees and recruitment of children provide more reasons for Somalis to flee.

They travel north, often to places they have only imagined, arriving hungry and desperate. They join the hundreds of thousands who have fled since 1991, leaving behind a city that once had 2.5 million people.

Many remain too poor to flee. The ones with some means head for camps in Somali towns like Galkayo, Bossaso and Hargeisa, searching for peace and support. The ones with a few dollars more head for foreign lands - Djibouti, Yemen, Saudi Arabia - searching for a new life.

Those who succeed enter a world where they can be deported at any moment, where they are increasingly viewed as a security threat. Those who fail, and most do, are trapped in a humanitarian limbo, resigned to hardship, dependency and a broken life.

Or they die.

"They travel from one hell to another hell," said Ahmed Abdullahi, a U.N. refugee protection officer in Galkayo, 470 miles northwest of Mogadishu and often the first stop on the journey toward Djibouti and Yemen.

These are the stories of women who have taken this road, from the places they end up.


Six miles north of Galkayo, in a place called Halabokhad, 473 families are stuck in a makeshift settlement. The landscape is hot, dusty, bleak as their lives.

They live in round, cramped tents made from clothing and straw. They become isolated, unable to afford transportation to town.

Local officials are in charge of the settlement, which is supported by the United Nations. But there is only one borehole for water. Food and medical care are also scarce. Bone-thin children have yellowish skin, a sign of malnutrition in a country where one of every seven children dies before age 5. Women deliver babies inside their tents, sometimes without help.

This is where Amina Aden arrived three months ago with her exhausted children and nothing else. Her neighborhood was engulfed by war. Her husband was killed in crossfire a day before they fled their home carrying only what they could. A few miles outside Mogadishu, masked men stopped their minibus filled with refugees. The youngest women were ordered out. Aden heard them scream while they were gang-raped.

The men returned, and Aden braced herself. Her eight children surrounded her, crying, tugging at her clothes. The men looked at them, then grabbed another woman. "My children saved me," Aden, 35, recalled with a feeble smile.

After the rapes, the men delivered one final blow: They robbed all the passengers of their meager possessions. "They even took our sandals," Aden said.

Her children, ages 3 to 15, do not attend school. For breakfast, they drink tea. For lunch, they eat a bland porridge. There is never any dinner.

"I cannot even buy milk powder for my baby," said her neighbor, Kaltoom Abdi Ali, 37. She, too, fled Mogadishu with her seven children after mortar shells crashed into her house two months ago. In the mayhem, she was separated from her husband.

"I don't know where he is," Ali said.

Her 14-year-old and 16-year-old sons work 14 hours a day, washing cars, cleaning houses or collecting garbage for local residents. On most days, they earn $1. "I want my children to have an education, but if we leave here, life could be worse," Ali said. "No one cares about us."

For the most part, help is limited. After two decades of conflict, famine and drought, the United Nations has had difficulty raising funds to assist Somalis, U.N. refugee officials say. There's donor fatigue and, in a post-9/11 world, nations are preoccupied with terrorism, security and other global crises. The United States, Somalia's main donor, has provided more than $185 million to Somalia's government and an African Union peacekeeping force, but withheld humanitarian funding this year, fearing that al-Shabab was siphoning off foreign aid.

More than 2 million Somalis have sought haven in U.N.-supported refugee camps in neighboring countries and in settlements in nearly every region of Somalia. The conflict has significantly blocked the ability of U.N. and humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to south and central Somalia, which are under al-Shabab's control.

Here, and in other settlements around Galkayo, women fear the night.

Two weeks ago, three masked gunmen entered Asha Muse's tent. In front of her four children, they beat her and her niece, Muna. The men tore the women's clothes off and took turns raping them for two hours. One attacker stabbed Muna in the thigh with a knife.

Another turned to Ali's son.

"If you make a sound, we will kill you," Muse recalled him saying.

Before they left, the men stole $85 and some clothes.

"Everybody rapes women. The soldiers, the militias, everybody," said Hawa Aden Mohammed, an activist who runs a women's shelter in Galkayo where victims of rape and other gender-based violence seek shelter.

Muse and her niece did not inform the police or aid workers. Muse has stopped collecting garbage, fearing her attackers will spot her. Her neighbors, who helplessly listened to their screams, look at her sympathetically.

"We can't go back to Mogadishu. We can't afford to leave here. We know we will get raped again," said Muse, her tears filling her eyes. "But there's nothing we can do."


They arrive in this coastal town, filled with pirates and smugglers, with dreams of sailing to Yemen.

A few months ago, as the war edged closer to his house, Ali Osman Ado took his pregnant wife and five children out of Mogadishu. A trader, he had saved enough money to move them to Bossaso - $135 from Mogadishu - and to pay smugglers to take him to Yemen, then Saudi Arabia.

"He told me when I get there, I will find a better life. I will come for you and the children," recalled Hassina Abubaker, 30, two months pregnant at the time.

He didn't know that Yemeni authorities, fearing that al-Shabab militants could infiltrate and join al-Qaeda's Yemen branch, were cracking down on Somali refugees, his wife said. He didn't know that Saudi Arabia had sent more than 9,000 Somalis back to Mogadishu. He didn't know the smugglers would be ruthless.

Three days after he left, his friends called her from Yemen.

"The ship was overcrowded. The crew started to throw people off the boat to make it more stable," said Abubaker, staring listlessly at the dirt floor of her tent. "My husband was one of them."

Over the past three years, 1,066 migrants died or went missing - they were in boats that capsized or they were killed by smugglers, according to U.N. officials.

In another tent, Fatima Ali Omar held her baby. When he turns 1, she plans to go to Yemen because she heard they "treat refugees well." Eventually, she wants to be smuggled into Saudi Arabia to work as a maid. She knows that women have been raped along the way. She knows that many are forced into prostitution. She knows that if she complains, she will be deported.

"Nothing matters as long as I find a good life at the end of the journey," Omar said. "I will forget I was raped."


This is the capital of the Other Somalia, a place barely touched by war, where gunfire is seldom heard. Known as Somaliland, this region broke away from Somalia in 1991 and today has its own elected, functioning government. The streets are bustling; new construction rises from nearly every corner.

Fatima Ahmed Noor fled here from Mogadishu after al-Shabab tried to recruit two of her nine children, after the war drove her husband insane and he separated from the family.

She has found anything but peace. The clans that rule Somaliland look at her with suspicion and disdain because she is from southern Somalia, where al-Shabab rules. Somaliland considers itself an independent country; the world does not recognize it as such. Authorities treat Somalis like Noor as foreigners. She and her children live in a refugee settlement and have little access to health care, education or jobs.

"They say, 'When we get recognition, we will also recognize you. You are displaced from another country, so you have to be treated as a foreigner,' " Noor said. "Everyone from Mogadishu is in the same condition."

She and her children earn $3 a day washing clothes, if they are fortunate.

As she spoke to this reporter, a community leader came over and glared at Noor. "I want to listen to what you are saying," she said harshly. She is among those who hurl verbal insults at Noor and her children.

What makes Noor equal to the other women in the settlement is this: "Rape is very common here," Noor said. "There is no discrimination."

Along the Djibouti border

Six days ago, Deka Mohamed Idou was in a different world. She had a house, a family. She had somehow survived 20 years of civil war in the capital.

Then, in a blur, her life fell apart. A clash between al-Shabab and the government forces erupted in her neighborhood. In the chaos, she was separated from her husband and three of their children. With their two other kids, she fled Mogadishu.

Along the way, she was robbed. She had to borrow $60, the cost of coming from Galkayo to this forlorn border. Two months pregnant, in a rattletrap minibus on a bumpy road, she constantly worried that she would lose her baby.

Now, on the edge of a foreign land, she worried as much about what she left behind as what lay ahead.

Idou looked down the road, at the Djiboutian border police, at the U.N. refugee workers preparing to register her, at the white gate that would open a new life for her family. Soon, they will be transported to Ali Addeh, a desert camp across the border in Djibouti.

"How will they treat us there?" Idou asked.

Ali Addeh camp, Djibouti

A bazooka shell struck Aisha Mohammed Abdi's house in Mogadishu, killing her uncle. She fled the capital with her husband and five children. Two died of hunger along the way. Days later, they arrived in Djibouti.

"I dreamed of a better life," she recalled.

That was 20 years ago.

She still lives in this camp, hundreds of miles from the capital, on a barren, oatmeal-colored landscape ringed by tan mountains. The Somalis call it "Tora Bora" because the region resembles Afghanistan. This is where Djibouti's government, worried that newcomers would take jobs away from its citizens, sends Somali and Ethiopian refugees.

The U.N. rations of wheat flour, oil, lentils and sugar are not enough to feed Abdi's family. There is also a shortage of water. Every day, Abdi walks six miles to fetch wood. She sells most of it; the rest is for cooking and heating their tent. There is no electricity.

Rapists are here, too. Two policemen guard the camp of 14,000 refugees. Darkness is the rapists' accomplice.

"Women can't identify their abusers," said Ayan Mohammed, a Djiboutian social worker. "Everyone is afraid."

Abdi once dreamed of being resettled to another country. No longer. Only 64 Somalis left for the United States and other Western countries this year, less than half of 1 percent of the Somali refugees living in Djibouti.

She once dreamed of returning home. No longer.

"It is worse in Mogadishu now than when I left," she said.

Today, she no longer dreams.

"I have been a refugee for 20 years," said Abdi. "Whether I stay longer here or leave for another place, only God knows. But I have lost all hope."

Source: The Washington Post